Eat Better to Feel Better—Part 2

For the Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/8/2021 1:59:17 PM

Eating foods to help you manage inflammation can go a long way toward helping you feel better in body and mood this spring. Although we can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel, pandemic living has been hard on most of us. You may be feeling less comfortable in your body than you did before the pandemic. It could be from increased inflammation due to inactivity especially during the winter months, reliance on comfort foods, and a heavy-duty dose of stress from lock down living.

Last month we reviewed the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables every day to help with the symptoms of inflammation such as joint and muscle pain, brain fog, mood issues, fatigue, and weight gain. The good news is there are even more anti-inflammatory foods to help you feel better. So it is not entirely about restricting yourself and feeling deprived, but eating your way to better health.

Notably, omega-3 fatty acids have significant anti-inflammatory properties in the body and are readily available at the supermarket.

Top 5 Foods for Omega-3 fatty acids

1. Fatty fish are probably the most well-known source of omega-3 fatty acids with salmon the preferred choice by many. There are, in fact, many kinds of salmon all of which are loaded with disease preventing nutrients as well as brain and heart healthy fats. The health benefits of fish oil are believed to derive principally from two omega-3 fats, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

King salmon, because of their longer upstream journeys, tend to store more fat and have more omega-3s. Farmed salmon are often fattier than wild salmon because they are fed a diet that includes grains and vegetable oils that are high in inflammatory omega-6 fats which combat the beneficial effects of omega-3s. Your best choice for salmon is wild for that reason plus that farmed fish are often treated with antibiotics and artificial dyes.

Remember that other fatty fish deliver a hefty dose of omega-3 fats including mackerel, herring, oysters, anchovies, caviar, and sardines.

2. Chia seeds are tiny packets of super nutrition and another great source of omega-3’s. They supply a remarkable amount of nutrients in an amazingly small portion of just 1 to 2 tablespoons.

Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. The ancient Aztecs and Mayans valued them for their energy-boosting properties. Besides a good omega-3 profile, they are also a good source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and minerals.

However, the omega-3 fats in chia seeds are not as potent as those found in fish oil (EPA and DHA). Chia seeds contain a plant-based omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which must be converted to EPA and DHA by a limited supply of enzymes. So, in terms of omega-3 “power,” fish is a more effective source.

3. Flax seeds are also a good source of omega-3 fats but again as a plant source are not as powerful as fish oil by weight. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them. Just be aware that what is on the label doesn’t reflect the biological value. For example, 700 mg of flax oil is not nearly as potent as 700 mg of omegas. It is important to note that flax and chia seeds are both great sources of fiber, essential nutrients and lignans which are well-known for cancer prevention, gut health, prevention of diabetes, and brain and heart health.

4. Walnuts are loaded with essential nutrients and are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fats. They are a great snack on the go and can be used in salads with a healthy drizzle of olive oil. Add them to any veggie dish to ramp up flavor and nutrition. Other nuts such as almonds, pecan, pistachios, and macadamias fight inflammation, too.

5. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of omega-3 fats as are other seeds like sesame, sunflower, and hemp. One of the most important advantages of seeds (and nuts) is how versatile and easy they are to add to your diet. Try making a trail mix with seeds, nuts, and a small amount of dried fruit. Or sprinkle seeds on cereal, yogurt, salads, soups, or mix them into smoothies.

The easiest way to fit these foods into your diet is to plan to eat fatty fish at least three times a week while you keep your pantry stocked with a large variety of nuts and seeds which can be added in a flash to almost any dish you are preparing. Next month we’ll chat about anti-inflammatory herbs and spices and specific foods to avoid curbing inflammation.

Ruth Clark, author of the best-selling book Cool the Fire: Curb Inflammation and Balance Hormones, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a master’s in Public Health and over 35 years of experience. She lives in Sharon and her practice is 100% virtual. Ruth specializes in mid-life and older women who are struggling with weight, mood, and fatigue to regain their energy and vitality. You can reach her at Ruth@RuthRD.com.


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